Fort Worth's new bike-sharing program kicked off Monday, and cyclists are hoping it will gradually change the city's car culture - two wheels at a time.
"All of you resonate the message that there is an acceptance of bicycles as an alternative," Mike Brennan, Fort Worth Bike Sharing board chair, told about 300 volunteers who gathered Monday morning at Burnett Park in downtown Fort Worth.
After a few remarks by Brennan and other leaders, the cyclists from various riding clubs then hopped on the 300 shiny, red Trek touring bikes and rode them to the city's 28 new bike-sharing stations. Brennan noted the eclectic mix in the crowd - whose clubs include colorful names such as Bicycle Betties, Night Riders and Manly Bulge Bike Club.
"There's a group for every type of rider out there," Brennan said.
Bicycles are available for rent at 28 stations mostly in downtown, the Near South Side, the cultural district and at Texas Christian University. More stations will be added during the summer, officials said.
Riders typically use a credit card to rent the bikes. Regular users can pay an $80 annual fee for unlimited use. Others can pay various rates that start at $8 per day, with additional fees for rides lasting more than 30 minutes.
The idea is to rent the bike at one location, and return it to a bike-sharing rack at the end of your trip.
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority - also known as the T - created a non-profit organization to run the program and accept donations.
The effort was boosted by a $1 million Federal Transit Administration grant awarded in July to set up the stations.
Among the volunteers who rode the bikes to their new stations was Don Koski, director of planning and project delivery for the Federal Transit Administration's Region 6 office in Fort Worth.
"We see bike-sharing as an extension of the transit system," Koski said. "There are people who ride the bus or the TRE (Trinity Railway Express) and use a bike for the final leg of their destination."
Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns predicted that the ready availability of bicycles will motivate people who work in the central part of the city to get out of their "dim, flourescent-lit rooms" and go for a ride.
"There's an incredible community spirit," Burns said, "and a focal point for us to get together."
Top photo: Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and about 300 helpers kick off Fort Worth's new bike-sharing program by riding bicycles to their racks.